I’m going to be honest, the only reason I’m posting two days in a row is because I have things to procrastinate over. I have not time throughout the day, yet somehow I still manage to waste what little I have. It’s kind of a super power. But setting that aside, somehow in my two years as an indie dev, I’ve not managed to hear about the Game A Month Jam. Now that I have, I’ve gotta say that I’m totally in. I like the idea of doing a full year of back to back jams as a learning exercise. I’m not really an apprentice anymore, so if that makes me a journeyman, I really do have to journey. I also like that I get to make slightly bigger games than I’m accustomed to. I don’t think I’ll be able to use the whole month every month, but I probably should try and get as close as possible. With that, I’m going to lay a few ground rules for myself so that I can hold myself accountable through this experience and maximize the educational benefits.
1) No game should be like the one before. If I make Galaga clones for twelve months, I’m just going to be twelve months better at making Galaga clones.
2) Every game should have a mechanic, feature, style, etc… that I don’t know how to implement. If I’m not pushing myself, I can’t improve.
3) All music will be made with a real-life instrument played by me. I’ve been neglecting practicing guitar and piano the past few years and I need to shape up. Plus, I can release a compilation soundtrack of my games for the year and cross “Release an Album” off my ‘Bucket List’.
4) Anything is better than nothing. I’m going to be trying NaNoWriMo again this year, so I’m going to be ‘booked up’ the month of November. There will still be a game. Even if it’s a short twine story about how bad I am at managing time.
5) Document the games. This means a good GDD and well commented, concise code. This isn’t just a hobby anymore. I intend to be a professional programmer in the near future, I need to develop good habits now.
I have a hard time committing to things. That much should be painfully obvious. I’m hoping that a semi-public commitment here will keep me on track, but who knows. I most certainly don’t.
As a bonus, here’s a theme I’ve been working on for this month’s game.
I know the title seems kinda floaty and saccharin, but I promise this isn’t irony. I’ve just re-started my college education and I’m absolutely loving it. As an adult I’ve fallen in love with learning, it’s a hobby I devote a significant amount of my time to. While I’ll be the first proponent of self-directed learning through cheap and free resources on the web, I have to say there’s something about a physical school that puts my mind in a receptive position. I would blame conditioning from my youth, but I spent ten years bucking against the institutions before finally dropping out two years shy of completing my secondary education. Maybe if they had guitars and booze at the school, I might have been more pliant.
A lot of things have changed about me as I’ve matured, as they do most. One of the biggest changes is that I am way more moderate with the guitar and the booze. I place any and all of the maturity I’ve acquired on the shoulders of my children. I was much the same person at twenty as I was at sixteen. Even the first year of my daughter’s life saw me using band practice as a cover for staying out and drinking all night. Something changed in me though. A switch was flipped, through no effort of my own, and suddenly I had perspective.
I buckled down to work, and have stayed in steady employment. I quit smoking. I scaled back my drinking and started staying home at night. Around this same time is when I started to feel a deep thirst in my brain for knowledge. Suddenly there was nothing I didn’t want to learn. No skill I didn’t want to acquire. I consumed educational material zealously, spending inordinate amounts of my discretionary income on online courses and books. I started to surround myself with people that had the skills that I wanted and learned from them. I pushed myself well out of my comfort zone, as often as possible.
Now, roughly two years from that original boom, I find myself refreshed yet again. I’ve started an AAS program for programming at the local community college. Even though it has consumed my every spare moment, I have found endless joy. That’s when a thought occurred to me. Maybe, I can just go to school for the rest of my life. Never stop pursuing education, never stop learning new things. Even if I just do a class a semester. School is expensive, but there are certainly more expensive hobbies with arguably few tangible benefits.
I absolutely reserve the right to scale any of that back. If I use my AAS to get a comfortable job and stay there until I retire, I will not feel guilty for the contradiction. That said, my current infatuation with learning should be well enough to see me through this particular degree, and I’m going to leave the door open for anything else that may follow.
That is a picture of the chair next to my desk. Ludum Dare was this past weekend, but that’s a pretty weak excuse. It’s Thursday. I’d like to blame depression, but when I’m feeling good I still can’t be fucked. I’m an okay adult in many regards. I have fair credit, I don’t borrow money I can’t afford to repay, I have dental insurance. But I’m balls at housekeeping and I can’t get better. It doesn’t matter how much or how little time I have, I always use it to do nothing. Right now, I should be cleaning my living room, but I’m writing a blog post. That chair will continue to look like that until my self loathing surpasses the terrifying impediment of my inertia.
I wish I was religious. I wish I had it in me to be religious. At least then I could slough my bullshit onto the shoulders of some higher power. Jesus, if you’re listening, for the love of God take the motherfucking (I avoided ‘Goddamn’, so that’s something) wheel so I don’t have to be responsible for myself. I probably should have learned to parent myself before I had kids. Too late for that. Maybe I can find fulfillment externally. Maybe I can achieve and acquire enough to bury the voice in my head that’s screaming.
I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but of course I fucking am.
As I get older, I’ve become more interested in processes. I like things that are complicated, that require precision over a number of steps. Making a good cappuccino or french press. Building a shelf. Assembling a shoe. It’s so bad, that I spend an inordinate amount of time watching time lapse videos of people making things I could never see myself making, just for the sake of experiencing craftsmanship on some level. As an artist, I envy the craftsman. A person that can channel their expression in so narrow a way that they can perfect a single aspect of it. There is nothing that can be made by an artist or tradesman that will ever be as, at-once, beautiful and functional as what a master craftsman is capable of.
I won’t deny that what drew me to games initially was the idea of making fun. Of manifesting the ideas that flowed through my head while I played the games. But as I’ve evolved as a developer that has changed. I love every step of the process of making a game. I love sitting in a chair and dreaming or mapping thoughts out on a whiteboard. I love hammering out code on early prototypes and figuring out solutions for a whole new problem set. I love poring over sprites, crafting them pixel-by-pixel. I love banging on the keyboard in my DAW and picking out notes on a piano roll. Every step of the process is vital and necessary and beautiful. This is the only medium I’m aware of that blends so many disciplines, yet is conducive to a solo effort, should you so choose.
Like a good cup of coffee, games take time. And, much like coffee, no matter how much love and dedication you put in people don’t really give a shit until you get it wrong.
I have a problem keeping up with this stuff. My site was down for the better part of a month over an issue that ended up being super easy to fix. I don’t know what’s going on. I do the therapy and everything, but I don’t know how much it’s actually helping with my productivity. Maybe that’s part of my problem. Maybe I’m too obsessed with productivity. I guess I have to be, to a certain degree. I work a full-time job besides all this stuff. If I don’t fight for the time to make things, I’ll never do it. But I feel like that pressure is part of the reason I dread the times when I have to push. I like to make games. I like to make things. This is what I want to do. Why is it so hard to just do it?
That’s probably a little personal, but as I’m just restarting this thing, I’m not going to put any expectations on it. I’m just going to write what feels natural and just call it that. It’s not likely too many will be reading in any case. If you are, I apologize. I don’t have the answer. I’ve dedicated a huge chunk of my life to finding the person that does. If you know them, can you get me their e-mail? I have questions.